Even when you can’t enter the building, your library is shelved full of free resources. Online story times? Got ’em. Access to books? Got ’em. Language resources? Got ’em.
Puppets on demand? Ehhh, maybe you’ll have to wait for those.
First, you’ll want to make sure you’re following your local library on social media. Story hours, book discussions and even craft times can be found there, as well as updated materials, reopening dates, information about the Census, everything libraries are known for.
Then, visit your library’s website. If you don’t have a card, you can still register digitally to make sure you have access to all the online resources. You’ll need a card for things like free access to magazines and newspapers and to check out e-books.
Here are some of our favorite digital resources from libraries around Chicagoland.
- Borrow e-books and audiobooks through Overdrive.
- Kids of all ages have access to Gale e-books.
- Ages 3-6 can learn a new language with Little Pim or Mango Languages.
- World Book Encyclopedia and World Book Kids for research for grades 2-7. Also, find general encyclopedias in multiple languages.
- Kids Search includes magazine articles for elementary-aged students.
- Culture Grams can teach kids about customs, lifestyles and traditions from all 50 states, 78 countries or 13 Canadian Provinces.
- Digital access to historical Chicago collections, Chicago Tribune historical archives as well as access to public archives across the country.
- Online tutoring in writing assignments, Spanish language courses and English as a second language classes.
- Research and access to science, health, math, history and geography articles and texts.
- Stream videos, movies and TV shows on demand.
- Borrow e-books, music and movies via Hoopla.
- Find archives of Chicago newspapers: Sun-Times, Tribune and Defender. Also, daily digital access to newspapers in the area and across the globe.
- Creating an invention while stuck inside? Check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office first, then file your own.
- Information from USA.gov about health, benefits and jobs from more than 100 government agencies.
The SWAN Library system includes libraries in the north, south and western suburbs of Chicago. There are 97 libraries within SWAN (which stands for System Wide Automated Network) and all libraries within the system regularly interloan books, movies, music and other content.
- All card holders can try more than 400 pages of printable worksheets for Kindergartners (and preschoolers who insist they’re ready for Kindergarten).
- SWAN libraries give access to TumbleBookLibrary, which has thousands of books that help kids learn to read (talking along with the book), includes comics and are instantly available through the internet, avoiding downloads and wait times. Also, try TumbleMath for kids in K-6th grade.
Middle School-High School
- Online tutoring for homework or questions parents just can’t answer.
- Find the right streaming system to access concerts, music, movies, videos and, of course, e-books.
- NASA has opened its collection of images and made them searchable online.
- Libby is an app that allows you to borrow e-books and download them to your various devices (Kindle, Phone, iPad, etc.). SWAN card holders can also borrow audiobooks. Like regular book borrowing, the books will disappear after the due date (without late fees).
- Search the SWAN system to find downloadable books in formats including HTML for your computer.
- Enjoy unlimited access to TumbleBooks through August.
- Checkout limits on Hoopla have doubled, allowing more access to comics, movies, TV shows, music, and, wait for it, e-books and audiobooks.
- Take the time indoors to research your genealogy.
Here are our favorite digital resources from libraries in the Northern Suburbs:
- Bensenville kids can still join all of their regular storytimes or watch them on-demand.
- Bloomingdale teens needing homework help can access Brainfuse HelpNow whenever they need it.
- The Carol Stream Library offers access to Bookflix, a system that pairs classic video storybooks with related nonfiction e-books.
- Eisenhower Library in Harwood Heights is offering an anonymous teen writers group for grades 7-12.
- Elmwood Park offers access to Axis360 to check out e-books and audiobooks.
- Franklin Park provides access to e-comics for readers of all ages.
- Itasca has an archive to Itasca History with gallery photos of people, the fire department, scenery and structures.
- Northlake’s social worker is still available to help families with support services such as housing, family, employment, mental health and more.
Here are our favorite digital resources from libraries in the South Suburbs:
- Acorn Library in Oak Forest recommends online help for parents and teachers, including homework help and lesson plans.
- Alsip-Merrionette Park users can take online classes through LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda).
- Bedford Park has recommendations for virtual tours that families can take to Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, National Gallery in D.C. and many others.
- Beecher residents have access to research databases on topics for kindergartners through adults, including history, language, science and technology and much more.
- In Blue Island, families have access to AudioBook Cloud, which includes children’s titles.
- Bridgeview offers access to online arts & crafts classes and workshops for free.
- Chicago Ridge residents can learn a new language through Mango, which requires a library card to access outside of the building.
- Crestwood families have access to the Illinois Digital Archives, a historical reference to people, places and periods in our state’s history.
- Dolton card holders can access tax and census information.
- Evergreen Park has provided a list of free resources, including Day by Day NY, which has songs, stories and crafts for every day of the year.
- Flossmoor Library holders can take practice pretests for the DMV driving exam.
- Frankfort holders can participate in a Bingo game that encourages diversity in book selection.
- Grand Prairie Public Library in Hazel Crest offers Hoonuit, which has classes and explanations on how to learn more than 250 technological applications, including Google, Adobe and Microsoft. (Perfect for parents trying to help kids with homework.)
- Green Hills Library in Palos Hills offers homework help through Fact Monster.
- Homewood residents have access to Beanstalk, an educational resource for preschoolers.
- The Indian Prairie Public Library District in Darien has its own YouTube channel to provide books and entertainment to kids.
- La Grange residents can find virtual storytimes and activity pages to quell the boredom.
- La Grange Park teens are encouraged to write reviews of the books they’ve been reading to receive a small prize.
- Lansing residents who need to can finish their GED with Career Online High School.
- Lyons families have access to A to Z World Travel to learn about traditions and take virtual tours of countries around the world.
- Markham residents can use a special code to access ABC Mouse (have your school director and teacher’s name handy).
- Matteson families can find locally sourced arts and craft ideas for all ages.
- Midlothian offers five options for homework help for kids of all ages.
- Oak Lawn families can learn local history through the OLPL online collection and quiz.
- Palos Heights has access to online magazines from Highlights’ High Five to People.
- Palos Park has curated a list of virtual visits around the world for shuttered families.
- Park Forest has all of its digital archives – including Mango language learner and online magazines – culled into a Digital Corner.
- Prairie Trails in Burbank has magazines, including adult coloring books, on demand.
- Summit also has access to Explore More Illinois and virtual online tours.
- Tinley Park’s A to Z online catalog includes Culture Grams, snapshots of life and culture all over the world.
Here are our favorite digital resources from libraries in the Western Suburbs:
- Batavia students can take ACT and SAT practice tests and take tutoring sessions prepping for the online college boards.
- The Bellwood Library has created access to a virtual escape room for families to try.
- Berkeley residents have access through Explore More Illinois to free virtual tours and entertainment.
- Berwyn card holders can try a free online class, including language, legal, technology, publishing, writing and many more. Most classes start anew each month.
- Broadview offers an extensive magazine database that includes home repair and improvement information.
- Brookfield has access to the 125th anniversary celebration of the town, including oral history, pictures and documents for families to survey and peruse.
- Cicero Library has access to RadioGarden, where residents can listen to any radio station in the world for free.
- Clarendon Hills families can find and create locally-sourced content through Biblioboard.
- Downers Grove card holders can use AtoZ World Food to find recipes from across the globe.
- Forest Park residents can learn a new skill using Lynda, Mango, MasterFILE or Universal Class.
- Geneva Public Library District allows card holders to check out e-magazines through RBdigital.
- Glen Ellyn provides free access to Consumer Reports.
- Hillside families can find video storybooks for kids on Scholastic BookFlix.
- Hinsdale offers access to the Chicago Tribune as well as online language resources.
- Maywood teens can try Exploratorium to learn about arts, STEM, cultures and languages.
- Melrose Park families can take advantage of Mango to learn a new language.
- Messenger Public Library of North Aurora has online college prep resources for teens and parents of teens.
- Morton Arboretum’s Library includes an extensive online collection of reference material for plant lovers, and this great gallery of dogs.
- North Riverside has a Niche Academy for using technology tools like Google and Word.
- Oak Brook recommends PBS Learning Media to parents with young kids stuck inside.
- Oak Park residents can read the N.Y. Times after you request a digital access code through your library (passes good for 72 hours, but you can request another).
- River Forest families can try NoveList for K-8, which includes books and recommended curriculum.
- Westmont‘s youth resources include Teaching Books, a multimedia integration of books and learning materials.
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